June 26, 2021
Major League Baseball dropped the hammer down on pitchers using foreign substances on the baseball a couple weeks ago, and several pitchers are alienating fans by showing how greedy and selfish they truly are.
Any pitcher found on the field with any substance other than rosin is now subject to ejection and an automatic ten-game suspension. Pitchers, true to form, have responded by wondering how the league has the gall to try and fix the ever-dwindling status of this great sport.
Elite aces Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, and Tyler Glasnow have led this crusade to end offense, while middling nobodies like Red Sox hack Garrett Richards follow closely behind. These crybabies don’t appreciate MLB trying to fix the drastic competitive advantage pitchers have swindled for themselves, and the negative effects they have attributed to the random spot-checks and stiff penalties are downright embarrassing.
-Cole insists that it’s unfair to force pitchers to go back to pitching dry-handed … ya know, the way they learned to pitch when they were eight-years-old … in the middle of the season.
-Richards claims that denying pitchers the ability to manipulate the ball with everything from sunscreen to horse manure is stripping them of their ability to compete.
-Glasnow uncorked the most punch-able excuse yet, blaming the partial UCL tear and flexor tendon strain he recently suffered on being forced to throw a dry baseball.
I do admit, however, that I can’t prove if that was actually Tyler Glasnow or just Cillian Murphy portraying Tyler Glasnow.
I’ll take these clownish examples one-by-one in a bit.
First off, it has always been illegal for a pitcher to use a foreign substance on a baseball!
There’s an MLB-issued rosin bag sitting on the mound every game for a reason. It’s the only thing that a pitcher is technically allowed to use to help grip the ball. The umpire spot checks and stiff punishments being doled out now are simply a reinforcement of a rule that has been in place since the dawn of the modern baseball era. This crackdown is a result of a handful of players taking things way too far and ruining it for everyone. Does this sound familiar to any of you baseball fans that are old enough to remember the mid-to-late 1990s? Or anything else from the late 2010s?
The entire league has looked the other way on substances like sunscreen and pine tar for decades because substances like that merely help pitchers grip the baseball. Hitters don’t have a problem with pitchers having a good grip on the ball, namely because it would suck to have a ball slip out of a pitcher’s hand and come careening toward their heads.
There were also those guys like Gaylor Perry, Michael Pineda, and Eddie Harris who used spit, snot, pine-tar, Vaseline, KY, and whatever else they could find to get an extra two or three inches of drop on their curveball. Until this month, umpires never kicked over any rocks looking for banned substances. Of course, if these shenanigans were ever discovered mid-game, the pitcher was always ejected.
But a few years ago, the divas on the mound began downright abusing the league’s blind eye to sticky stuff and started using all kinds of goop to not only improve their grip, but also to increase the spin rate of their pitches to make them much harder to hit.
Spider-Tack is the new word of the day for baseball fans. This is an adhesive used in masonry to attach giant freaking stones to one another. Pitchers have actually been smearing this stuff on baseballs to get more swings and misses. Some pitchers even had clubhouse employees cooking up special mixtures of mutant hybrid bonding agents to that same end. Balls that are covered with this stuff spin hundreds of RPMs more than balls without it, artificially making them way harder to hit.
Now, onto the excuses.
Gerrit Cole found it criminally unfair for MLB to give teeth to the rule against sticky substances in the middle of a season. What he’s overlooking is this year’s league-wide batting average of .238, the lowest since 1968. Prior to 2017, the lowest league batting average in the past 50 years was .244. Offense has traditionally gone up as players have gotten bigger and more athletic, but blatant overuse of sticky substances has clearly bucked that trend of late and granted pitchers a giant advantage.
Has Cole paid any attention to baseball’s ratings over the past decade? What was the league supposed to do in the middle of a year where offense has gone into the crapper and viewership is so far down? Should they have sacrificed yet another year of alarmingly low ratings and turned even more casual fans away from the game just to keep the pitchers who have cheated the most from having to quickly adjust to a level playing field?
The whining of Garrett Richards may aggravate me most of all, and not just because he is on the Red Sox. Richards has battled injuries, command issues, and, frankly, mediocrity throughout his career. His entire upside when Chaim Bloom picked him up in the offseason was based on his elite spin rate. After a terrible start to the season, Richards vastly improved and performed well for about a month leading up to the hard ban on foreign substances, evidently a giant tease built on smoke, mirrors, and goopy baseballs. Ever since the spot checks began, Richards’ spin rate has plummeted, along with all of his accuracy and effectiveness. Now, he’s pissing and moaning to the media that pitchers need to be able to coat the baseball with grease and grime in order to “compete.”
Maybe Richards would have a point if this discussion was taking place back in 1998, when teams were loaded with genetically engineered superfreaks that were going yard at laughable rates. Again, the league batting average is .238. The pitchers are doing a lot more than “competing.” The pitchers are flat out dominating, and fans are responding with disinterest. At least the steroid bubble of the 90s brought record viewership to the sport. Sticky-gate has helped nobody other than the pitchers who are abusing it. Not only are hitters paying the price with diminishing performance, fans are paying the price as well.
Hardcore fans enjoy a good pitcher’s duel, but the majority of people that sit down to watch a ballgame want to see offense. Complaining about being unable to compete without an advantage that has actually been illegal for decades shows that you are not only a crybaby, but also that you may not have ever been a major league caliber player to begin with.
Which brings us to Tyler Glasnow. Holy Shniekies, does he piss me off. Pitchers suffer injuries to their throwing arms every year for obvious reasons. Besides injecting it with heroin, the strain and torque you put on your arm in order to throw a baseball nearly a hundred miles per hour is about as unhealthy and unnatural as anything you can do to your arm. Yet Glasnow somehow “100% believes that (lack of sticky substances) contributed to me getting hurt.”
So, throwing the ball faster than cars are allowed to drive on the highway wouldn’t have hurt your arm on its own, Tyler? What really did you in was holding the ball tight? I especially love how he tried to frame the answer diplomatically by saying he’s not blaming anybody, then continually blame MLB’s enforcement of this preexisting rule. If any pitcher is going to use the fear of injury in their case to allow pitchers to use foreign substances, they should not focus on injuries to themselves.
Max Scherzer seems to be the only pitcher smart enough to exclusively champion the only pro-sticky stance that is in any way compelling. Scherzer wants the league to allow pitchers to use foreign substances that improve their grip (sunscreen, pine tar), but do not affect the movement of the ball (Spider Tack, homemade crunk mix). Hitters and pitchers alike have an interest in pitchers having a good grip on the ball, since nobody wants to see a hitter take a heater to the noggin.
Nobody would object to allowing substances that solely improve a pitcher’s grip on the ball. The problem is the fine line between grip aid and spin enhancement. The umpires on the field are not forensic experts. How can they definitively tell the difference between a permissible sunscreen/sweat mixture and some illegal specially-baked concoction that adds 200 RPMs of spin to a breaking ball? The only solution is to disallow all of it and force the pitchers to stick (pun intended) with rosin.
Hitters like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire took the steroid thing way too far twenty-five years ago, obliterating the home run record book to the point where nobody knows who the real home run king is anymore. Over the past few years, pitchers like Cole, Glasnow, Richards, and Scherzer have done the same with tacky substances. The current modern-era MLB record for no-hitters in a season is 7. Before strict enforcement of the rule against foreign substances began in early June, there had already been that many no-hitters thrown this year. There have never been 8 no-hitters thrown in a single year, yet 7 had already been thrown this year by the end of May!!!
Drips like Cole, Richards, Glasnow, and Scherzer have only themselves to blame for putting their own success in jeopardy. And hitters can now blame them for putting their lives in jeopardy.
The best-case scenario for this situation is that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is using sticky-gate as a negotiation tactic for the pending labor issues that are expected following the 2021 season. There is talk of a looming player strike next year, and the universal player appeal of grip-aids may be a concession that the league plans to throw to the player’s union. Perhaps the across-the-board substance ban was invoked solely with the intent of modifying it to allow grip-aiding substances later on. Throwing this bone to the players during collective bargaining negotiations could end up saving the league a few percentage points when all is said and done. It’s all about the cheddar, after all.
Regardless of the intent, the pitchers had to be reigned in. Just like steroid use in the 90s and banging on trash cans recently, MLB had no choice but to try to restore the competitive balance. For all that Major League Baseball has done wrong lately regarding evolving with the times and marketing the game, I consider the foreign substance ban a step in the right direction. Cry me a river, pitchers. You still have rosin and your nasty fingernails to manipulate the balls with. Quit bitching or we’ll make you start washing your jockstraps after good outings.
Allow me to close this admittedly long column with a few words from the GOAT … an OG who managed to dominate major league hitters during the most difficult pitching era in the history of baseball.